The Choice of the Believing Community


The official list of the books of the Bible is called Canon which means: rule, measure. The books included in the Canon are called canonical. The Canon has a story worth knowing.




The Bible is a collection of books that are many in number and different in quality. It is the living and believing community, the Church that is responsible for their choice. The official list of the books of the Bible is called Canon which means: rule, measure. They are the books that measure up to the truth and goodness of God’s genuine revelation. The books included in the Canon are called canonical.

In the Canon, there are 27 books in the New Testament that are accepted by all Christian denominations. For the Old Testament, the Catholic Church accepts 46 books as it was in the Alexandria Collection, at the time of the first translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek, the so-called Septuaginta (seventy).

This translation is very famous and was done around the year 200 BC. According to the legendary tradition, the translation was the work of seventy scholars who worked individually, yet the result was miraculously the same. At the time of the Apostles, that was the Old Testament in Greek that was used by the Christian community.

The criteria for choosing the books for the Canon are divine inspiration and absence of error. The first document of the choice made over time by the Christian community goes back to the end of the 2nd century and is called the Muratori List. It was around the 4th century that the “Canon” was finalized. Eventually, during the Council of Trent, the Canon was the object of a dogmatic definition.

The Deuterocanonical Books

Seven of the books of the Old Testament were written originally in Greek and didn’t need translation. They are: Tobit, Judith, 1-2 Maccabees, Baruch, Sirach, and Wisdom. They are called Deuterocanonical because they were added later to the official list. The deuterocanonical books are important because they witness to some truths that are present only in them like life after death (Wisdom) and prayer for the dead (Maccabees).

The Jewish people do not accept them in their Canon since they follow the Jerusalem Collection of only 39 books, all in Hebrew. The Protestants follow the Jewish canon, but recently added the deuterocanonical books to their Bibles, placed all together in a separate section. Apocriph are books about Jesus that are often contemporary of the canonical, but don’t show inspiration or are full of errors. They lack credibility and were excluded from the Canon.

The Classification

The most common classification of the books of the Bible goes like this: in the Old Testament we have first the Pentateuch which includes the first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They are the most important and are called the Law (Torah).

Then come the Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Ester, 1 and 2 Maccabees (16); then the Wisdom Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, and Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (7).

Last come the Prophetical Books (18). The four Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah (with Lamentations and Baruch), Ezekiel, and Daniel, are followed by the twelve Minor Prophets: Amos, Hosea, Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Obadiah, Joel and Jonah. All together the Old Testament is made up of 46 books.

As for the New Testament, the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the Acts of the Apostles can be called Historical (5). The letters can be considered Wisdom Books (21). Of them 14 belong to Saint Paul: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrews. Then come the so-called Catholic Letters because they are addressed to all Christians, not to a group or an individual. There are 7: James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude. The last book, Revelation, is definitely Prophetic. All together they number 27.

The One And Only Book

We must not think of the 73 books of the Bible as standing side-by-side on a bookstore or library shelf. Although very different from each other, they are the one and only book: God’s Book. The unity of the Bible is made by Jesus Christ. He is the point of arrival of God’s plan of salvation which is displayed throughout the whole Bible.

“In the fullness of time, God, who had communicated with us in different ways and in various times through our ancestors, the Prophets, has spoken to us in the person of his Son whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the ages. He is the reflection of God’s glory and bears the impression of God’s own being” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

The most important lines in the whole Bible are these: “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14) and “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Share Your Thoughts

All comments are moderated

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage


Presents, discusses and draws readers to reflect on issues of outmost relevance to the world today.


Very often, mission is carried out in frontier situations around the world. Those who embrace these situations have much to share.


Writer Ilsa Reyes will be exploring the richness of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti with a view of helping our readers to get a grasp of the this beautiful papal document.


Puts to the front committed and inspiring people around the world who embrace humanitarian and religious causes with altruism and passion.


Focus on a given theme of interest touching upon social, economic and religious issues.


As the Philippines prepares to celebrate 500 years of the arrival of Christianity. Fr. James Kroeger leads us in this series into a discovery journey of the landmark events in the history of faith in the Philippine archipelago.


Aims to nurture and inspire our hearts and minds while pondering upon timely themes.


The large archipelago of the Philippines, in its richness of peoples and cultures, offers varied and challenging situations for mission.


Reflections and vocation stories that shape up the lives of young people.


As humor and goodness of heart are qualities of Christian and missionary life, the new column “Mission is fun” will be publishing some anecdotes and stories that have happened in a missionary context to lighten up the spirits and trigger a smile in our faces.


To help readers of World Mission live this year dedicated to Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, Tita Puangco, writer and lecturer, shares in this section insights on the spirituality of communion.


A historic view of the Catholic movements that emerged from the grassroots as an inspiration by the Holy Spirit.


On the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, radio host and communicator Ilsa Reyes, in her monthly column, encourages Christians and people of good will to be one with their fellow people of other sects, religions and tribes.


Questions to a personality of the Church or secular world on matters of interest that touch upon the lives of people.


News from the Church, the missionary world and environment that inform and form the consciences.


A feature on environmental issues that are affecting the whole world with the view of raising awareness and prompting action.


The editor gives his personal take on a given topic related to the life of the Church, the society or the world.


A monthly column on themes touching the lives of young people in the Year of the Youth in the Philippines by radio host and communicator I lsa Reyes.


A missionary living in the Chinese world shares his life-experiences made up of challenges and joyous encounters with common people.


Life stories of people who deserve to be known for who they were, what they did and what they stood for in their journey on earth.


Stories of people whom a missionary met in his life and who were touched by Jesus in mysterious ways.


Critical reflection from a Christian perspective on current issues.


Comboni missionary Fr. Lorenzo Carraro makes a journey through history pinpointing landmark events that changed the course of humanity.


A biographical sketch of a public person, known for his/her influence in the society and in the Church, showing an exemplary commitment to the service of others.


Gives fresh, truthful, and comprehensive information on issues that are of concern to all.


A column aimed at helping the readers live their Christian mission by focusing on what is essential in life and what it entails.


Peoples, events, religion, culture and the society of Asia in focus.


The human heart always searches for greatness in God’s eyes, treading the path to the fullness of life - no matter what it takes.


The subcontinent of India with its richness and variety of cultures and religions is given center stage.


The African continent in focus where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world.


Well-known writer and public speaker, Fr. Jerry Orbos, accompanies our journey of life and faith with moments of wit and inspiration based on the biblical and human wisdom.


On the year dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyala, Fr. Lorenzo Carraro walks us through the main themes of the Ignatian spirituality.


Fr. John Taneburgo helps us to meditate every month on each of the Seven Last Words that Jesus uttered from the cross.


In this section, Fr. Lorenzo delves into the secrets and depths of the Sacred Scriptures opening for us the treasures of the Sacred Book so that the reader may delight in the knowledge of the Word of God.


Reflections about the synodal journey on a conversational and informal style to trigger reflection and sharing about the synodal path the Church has embarked upon.

Shopping Cart